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to the white house. so there were no debates in 1964, '68 or '72. >> announcer: this is the cbs news special report. >> schieffer: only after his poll numbers dropped did gerald ford agree to debate challenger jimmy carter in 1976. >> i interviewed ford about this. i said why did you agree to the debate? he said, "it was my only hope." he was down and out because of having pardoned nixon. that's why he was so far down. he said, "if i could get jimmy carter to debate me, i might have a chance." >> schieffer: yet ford ended up hurting his chances with this statement. >> there is no soviet domination of eastern europe and there will be under a ford administration. >> schieffer: it was a serious gaffe in the cold war era when the soviet iron curtain extended across europe >> did i understand you to say, sir, that the russians are not using eastern europe as their own sphere of influence? >> schieffer: it certainly made for compelling television. each of the ford-carter debates drew in more than 60 million viewers. the public had spoken. the debates were here to stay. >> are you better off than y
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